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Paths to Development #2

Paths to Development is a series wherein we explore an understanding of how a society can politically, economically, and/or socially develop, drawing from different theorists, schools, and ideologies.

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Marx’s understanding of development, known as dialectical materialism, assumes an over-arching, historical narrative which explains every phase of development transitioning into a new economic system. His work emphasises the nature of economic production methods, such as what technology or practices are used in economic production, as well as economic relations.

Production methods eventually exceed the nature of economic relations as society progresses through science, technology, and political understandings, leading to a change in relations. This can be seen from humanity’s journey from primitivism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and —as Marx claimed for the future —socialism and then communism.

Marx proposes that humanity began with “primitive communism”, wherein early human tribes did not have “alienating” factors of property, production, nor religion, but that these factors eventually emerged to create unequal economic relations. To reach communism, Marx claimed, would be to undo the alienation we all suffer from today, regardless of class (although the dominated classes were the most alienated), and achieving economic, social, and political equality. This would require a global revolution of the proletariat (industrial workers) to create a class dictatorship, wherein the proletariat assume total political control, and eliminate class distinctions (the socialist stage), eventually abandoning the state, all property (except personal), and money; (achieving communism). Non-Marxist development theorists often prioritise greater political, social, and economic freedoms for the global poor, which can achieve greater poverty reduction and can be as well as being seen as developmental ends in themselves. However, most view the market or a restricted state as the ideal method of achieving this outcome.

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